Cano: 'It's always good to be back in New York'

December 4th, 2018

NEW YORK -- As soon as the Mariners shipped Mike Zunino and out of Seattle last month, knew the writing was on the wall. Despite his sizeable contract, the eight-time All-Star figured he would be taking his next at-bat in another uniform.

That the uniform will say "New York" on it was a pleasant bonus.

The veteran second baseman was formally introduced by the Mets on Tuesday, joined by teammate , the All-Star closer acquired from the Mariners in a seven-player trade Monday. Although the pinstripes were a different shade of blue than the one he wore across town during the first nine years of his career, Cano was all smiles as he slipped on his new No. 24 jersey.

"It's always good to be back in New York, where everything started in my career," Cano said. "I can't really tell you how happy I am right now. I didn't want to get too excited until this happened, but when it happened, I got so excited to be back in New York. This uniform, I know the traditions and the history. I feel blessed right now."

With five years and $120 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million deal he signed with the Mariners in December 2013, the 36-year-old is expected to be a significant contributor for the Mets in 2019 and beyond, a middle-of-the-lineup presence for a team that ranked 12th in the National League in runs scored last season.

After reaching the World Series in 2015 and earning a Wild Card berth in '16, the Mets have posted a pair of disappointing seasons, finishing in fourth place in each of the past two years. Adding Cano and Diaz is the first step for new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

"We did not make this move for it to be our last move," said Van Wagenen.

"Their goal is to win, so hopefully we can get the right pieces and be able to win next year," Cano said. "I play this game to win. A lot of people think I just came to this game to make the money and go home. I love this game. I play because I love it. Knowing I have a chance to come here, that they're going to build a team to win a World Series, that's all that matters to me."

Cano signed with the Yankees as an 18-year-old amateur, coming up through their system before making his big league debut in May 2005. He played nine seasons in the Bronx, making five All-Star teams and helping the Yankees win the 2009 World Series.

His roots in the area are far deeper than that. Cano attended school in the Newark, N.J., area in seventh, eighth and ninth grade, so his fondness for the tri-state metropolitan area extends beyond his time with the Yankees. He was an active member of the community during his time in New York, making frequent visits to the children's wing at Hackensack University Medical Center, where the pediatric physical and occupational therapy suite was ultimately named in his honor. Cano said he planned to make a visit there Wednesday.

Callaway 'excited' with Cano, Diaz joining Mets

Cano was unable to help get the Mariners to the postseason during his five years in Seattle, though he expressed his fondness for the city and its fans as he put that chapter of his life behind him Tuesday.

"I feel thankful for the Seattle organization and the city," Cano said. "The fans embraced me right away and I had a great time there."

Many players have struggled to handle the expectations that come with playing in New York, but Cano has the advantage of experience. He's seen the highs and lows New York has to offer, and after his difficult 2018 season (which included an 80-game suspension for violating the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program), he seems invigorated by the challenge of helping the Mets regain top status in the city after the Yankees' back-to-back postseason appearances.

"Being through this in the past, not only with me, but with a lot of better players have gone through, it makes it easier now," Cano said. "I know the things I have to do in New York. It makes it easy for me to come back here.

"Fans always expect you to win -- and I love that. It motivates you as a player. I love that pressure."

Cano said he always admired the way Mets fans came out in support of their team during the Subway Series, and he took note of Citi Field's atmosphere during the team's 2015 postseason run. But the event that stood out above all others took place only two-plus months ago, showing Cano the type of bond Mets fans have with the team's players.

"The thing that impressed me the most was the last game with ," Cano said. "The way all the fans showed up and showed their love to David, that's impressive."

Cano knows there's a faction of people out there that question the deal, many of whom point to his age as a drawback given the five years remaining on his contract. He understands the skepticism, but Cano seems eager to show that Van Wagenen and the Mets made the right move in bringing him home to the city in which he first made a name for himself.

"I feel like I'm 25 right now; people are free to say whatever they want, but I know how I feel," Cano said, citing players such as David Ortiz, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as some that excelled into the latter years of their careers. "When you get to 36 and going toward 40, people say, 'He's old; he's done.' In my mind, I feel like I can go out there and compete with anyone that is younger than me.

"I don't want to say I want to prove people wrong, but I want to go out and be able to compete every day, produce and help the team win a World Series."